When parents come to meet me and tour my in-home daycare for the first time their often very quiet and just walk around and look at everything. At the end of the tour I always ask, “Do you have any questions?”. Most of the time I get a blank stare and the words “I don’t think so…… everything looks good.”. From my experience, parents do have a million questions, but they forget them the moment they walk through the door or they just don’t know what questions to ask. So, I’ve decided to write of list of question parents SHOULD ask before committing to an in-home daycare for their children.
Question #1. Is the daycare licensed with the State? City?
Of all the questions to ask, I dare say this is the absolute most important question a parent can ask. In the State of Texas, it is ILLEGAL to watch more than two children, that are not yours, and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services not know about it. There are many different licenses that a person can receive (Licensed, Registered, and a Listed Family). If you’re not sure or want to check before meeting you can check www.dfps.state.tx.us and click on “Search Texas Child Care”. This link will let you see all the options of child care in your city, as well as show you if they are in compliance with the states rules and inspections. Being licensed with the state helps protect children and keep them out of harms way. As a Licensed Child Care Provider, you must have background/ Criminal checks and be CPR Certified every two years as well as be educated and take classes about SIDS, safety and how to properly handle different scenarios. Both licensed and registered homes get random inspections that make sure they are following all the states guide lines. This helps make sure these daycares are safe and nice to the children.
Not only does the daycare need to have a state license but, in most cases, you must also obtain the proper zoning variances by the city to operate a business in your house. It is Illegal to run a business, that attracts costumers to your home, in a residentially zoned area. If an in-home daycare that is not properly zoned with the city and is caught they could have MAJOR fines and would be forced to be stop their business until they are properly zoned with the city (which can take months). This is one thing parents forget to ask, till one day they get a call from their child care provider telling them they can’t watch their child anymore and then the parent must quickly find a babysitter. So, save yourself the stress of “what if they get caught” and find a daycare that has the proper zoning variances with the city.
Question #2. Is your daycare insured?
Accidents happen. You could bubble wrap the entire daycare and there’s still a chance little Jonny could trip and break an arm or bump his head. While no one likes to ask this question, it’s an important one. Many parents think all daycares have to have insurance. This is not true. The State of Texas does not require in-home daycares to be insured. Regardless, every daycare should be properly insured to protect themselves as well as the children. Ask if they have a general liability policy and ask if their policy covers incidentals like a medical bill from a broken arm that happened while at the daycare. Another insurance question to ask is if their home owner’s insurance policy allows a business in the home (it almost never is). If it doesn’t, and the owner of the home reports a claim on, let’s say, the DAYCARE part of the home, the insurance company will deny coverage on the claim, and your childcare provider will have trouble fixing the daycare that your child is in. When I started my daycare business, I had to first get a general liability insurance policy. Then I had to switch my home owner’s policy that was okay with me running a daycare business in my home.
Question #3. How much does daycare cost, what are your different fees, and what are your times?
Shockingly, I’ve known parents that sign up at a daycare and then realize on the first day of drop off that the daycare doesn’t open for another hour and they’ll be late for work. Or that the daycare closes before they get off work. Make sure this doesn’t happen. If you need before or after care, ask. Some daycares will work with you, some won’t.
Child care is a business and different fees and cost should be expected. Ask about what fees you’ll be charged (paid vacation time, supply fees, before and after care fees, snack fees, summer break fee, semester fees, Holiday fees, late fees, holding fees, two weeks pay after immediate termination, etc.) these are just some of the fees that can be added to your tuition. Don’t be in the dark about these fees. They can sometimes be expensive and if you’re like my family, we have to budget where our money goes each month and a surprise fee could easily mess up your plans. The childcare may seem cheap but expect fees. All of these should be listened in the Daycares contract.
Question #4. Do you have a contract? If so what are some key points that are important for me to read?
Every daycare SHOULD have a contract. A contract will help you know what the provider expects, what are the rules, curriculum, what’s your policy on punishment, emergency plans, etc. Reading the contract will help answer all the small things that need to be known and will also keep the provider from changing the rules on you and keep them accountable. Every Child care provider is different, so ask her what some of the important rules that parents often forget about? It gives you a chance to know what bugs them the most and helps form a positive relationship.
Question #5. What’s your sick policy.
Every daycare sick policy is different. Some daycare will send a child home because they sneezed while others will let children come with lice or the flu. Most daycares have these policies written in their contract. Knowing this policy will help you understand what they expect you to do if your child becomes Ill and what they consider sick.
Question #6. Are you licensed to drive children to activities during the day?
If your one of those parents that are okay with the child care provider driving your child, make sure to ask if they have taken the proper driving safety course. No parent wants to find out that the daycare provider taking your child to a field trip, is a bad driver or does not know how to install a car seat properly. Make sure to ask if the daycare provider has the proper auto insurance coverage to be driving multiple daycare children. If they don’t know the answer to this question, they most likely do not have the right auto insurance.
Question #7. What are your safety procedures?
No one wants to think that the unthinkable could happen while their child is at daycare, but with things like choking, fires, floods and shootings, there needs to be protocols and emergency evacuation plans in place if needed. If you’re looking at a licensed or register home in Texas, the daycare is required to practice these once a month. Most Child care providers will be happy to go over these plans with you.
These are some very basic questions that need to be asked when touring and interviewing daycares. While some are not fun to ask, this will help your family feel more confident in making the right decisions on which daycare to choose. Your child is the most important thing you have, so make sure to ask the right questions. If you don’t like the answers you receive to these questions by a child care provider or you think the daycare is dangerous in anyway please contact a Texas Child Care State Inspector. You can leave anonymous tips at www.dfps.state.tx.com and the inspector will come out and review the daycare.